On Wednesday, June 8, Pope Francis continued his cycle of catecheses on old age. Based on the example of the Pharisee Nicodemus, he meditated on one of the missions of the elderly: to teach us the way to the kingdom of God, accepting the finitude of our life on Earth.
Claire Riobé – Vatican City
The general audience of this Wednesday, June 8 invites us to meditate on the relationship between Christ and the notable Pharisee Nicodemus. In chapter 3 of the Gospel according to Saint John, Jesus explains to Nicodemus that whoever wants to see the kingdom of God must “to be born from above”. Nicodemus, who wishes to know Christ and goes secretly to him, struggles to understand this new birth, because he himself is old, and is coming to the end of his earthly life.
To be reborn from above, François explained during the hearing, does not consist in “to repeat our coming into the world, hoping that a new reincarnation will reopen the possibility of a better life to us”. This repetition would empty life of all meaning, erasing it as if it were a failed experiment. The “birth from above”, which allows us to enter the kingdom of God, must be understood as a passage through the waters to the promised land, Francis considered.
Nicodemus misunderstands this birth, and points to old age as clear proof of its impossibility. How can one imagine a destiny that has the form of a birth?
Getting rid of the myth of eternal youth
This objection of Nicodemus can be reversed “in the light of the words of Jesus, to discover therein a mission specific to old age”, said the Holy Father.
People at the end of life, in fact, are far from this desperate obsession with incorruptible flesh, and from a myth of eternal youth. This myth makes us expect miracle solutions from medicine or cosmetics. “Why is old age depreciated? Because it bears the irrefutable proof that challenges this myth, which would like to make us return to the mother’s womb, to be eternally young in body. thus condemned the Sovereign Pontiff.
Pope Francis also pointed out the technique, which today “Let’s be seduced by this myth in all respects: while waiting to overcome death, we can keep the body alive thanks to drugs and cosmetics, which slow down, hide, cancel old age.”
A “spiritual and cultural mission”
Yet life in mortal flesh is “a very beautiful thing” and an unfinished thing, continued the Holy Father. This life on Earth must be lived as an initiation and not an accomplishment. That is why, “old age should not give nostalgia for our birth in time, but love for our final destiny”, he pointed out. Old age and the elderly possess this unique beauty: that of leading us towards Eternity.
Old age, concluded the Successor of Peter, is therefore a privileged moment in life, which frees us from the technocratic illusion of biological and robotic survival. “But above all, it opens to the tenderness of the creative and generative womb of God. May the Spirit grant us the reopening of this spiritual – and cultural – mission of old age, which reconciles us with the birth from above”, finally asked the Pope.
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General Audience: “Life on Earth is an initiation, not an accomplishment” – Vatican News
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